Behind the App: Marketing Strategies from Chillingo’s Carmen Pearson

By Chris Reed on April 7, 2014

If you’ve been following the mobile gaming scene for a while, then you know that Chillingo is one of the biggest names in the business. They’ve been publishing high quality titles for so long that it’s easy to forget how difficult their job is.

What does Chillingo do, exactly? They find talented independent developers, provide them with resources to make their games better, and help spread the word to a wide audience. They’ve launched many mega-hits, including the original Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, plus Feed Me Oil, Puzzle Craft, Pixel People, and many, many more. Chillingo is so good at what they do that EA bought the company for $20 million and, at least from the outside, seems to have changed almost nothing about how they run their business.

From a ground-level standpoint, developers use Chillingo to publish their games is because Chillingo is very good at getting games noticed. For insight into their marketing mindset, I spoke with Carmen Pearson, the head of public relations for the company. She’s been with Chillingo since 2009, and has played no small role in their ongoing success.

One thing Chillingo’s PR team does, she says, is get involved with developers as early as possible in the game-making process. “We take time to really understand the titles we publish and observe how the game progresses throughout the development cycle. Our team has over a decade of knowledge and expertise in the mobile gaming space; this allows us to carefully identify aspects that appeal to media and resonates with gamers.”

By way of example, Pearson offers Icycle, a game that features a lone bicyclist riding through a psychedelic dreamscape. “Our PR team worked closely with developer Reece Milledge of Damp Gnat to highlight how this talented one-man team created such a phenomenal indie title. We called special attention to the unique art design, vibrant graphics and addictive gameplay levels that leave you curious and wanting to play more.”

A lot has changed in the mobile space since Chillingo started out, so they continually have to adapt to stay relevant. The most recent seismic shift in the market is the abundance of freemium games. How has this affected their approach to marketing? Pearson says, “Our multiplayer tank warfare title, Iron Force is a great example. We debuted the game last summer and it continues to grow in popularity as players from around the world battle in skirmishes and form legions with friends to win. To support the increased momentum, we regularly share update information, gameplay enhancement news and other content with media and directly with players instead of just during the launch window.”

On that note, Pearson says, one of the most important things she’s learned in her career is to stay on top of industry trends. You don’t have to follow them blindly, but you need to be aware of how customers are spending their money and understand why. She says Chillingo is “extremely dialed-in,” thanks in large part to their conversations with developers and partners.

Indie developers can keep up to speed on their own by following lists of top apps and by looking for trends. But, as Pearson points out, you’ll get a lot more out of participating in the development community, both online and in person. Visit developer forums, communicate with others on Twitter, and attend industry events.

On reaching potential customers, Pearson says, “In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s key to understand how our players consume information. Whether it’s via their social media channels, news sites or within a game, our PR team monitors and identifies the best ways to keep our audiences informed.”

To sum up the advice, highlight what makes your app unique, stay up to speed on industry trends, participate in the development community, and know your potential customers and where to reach them. Doing all of that is not easy–but it has worked for Chillingo, so you can bet it’s effective.